COOLIDGE — Though education for students at the Central Arizona Valley Institute of Technology has transitioned from on-campus classrooms to a virtual setting, many questions and uncertainties remain for the career and technical education district.
The biggest challenge CAVIT will face in light of the recent school closures spurred by the global pandemic revolves around student certifications.
To receive their certifications within selected programs, such as nursing assisting or medical assisting, students are required to complete a specified amount of work-based learning and instructional hours.
The issue was discussed during the monthly CAVIT Governing Board meeting, which was held telephonically on Wednesday, as part of an update on the current school closure caused by the coronavirus outbreak.
“Certifications are somewhat problematic for us because our third quarter is traditionally heavy emphasis on students going out and completing clinicals, internships, as well as working towards finishing all of the instructional hours and instructional demands that affiliated agencies require for students to sit for these certifications,” Superintendent Mike Glover told board members.
CAVIT is currently examining opportunities that could be made available to help students complete the hours necessary for their certifications once social distance mandates are lifted. The options would likely include summer or fall semester programing for the purpose of certification completion.
But even when schools reopen, in the aftermath of coronavirus, it is unclear if medical organizations that students in some CAVIT programs generally rely on to earn their work-based learning hours will be able to take on students.
“There’s a bit of unknown questions that still need to be answered today,” Glover said. “Will schools be open in the month of June? Will we have teachers that are available to conduct this programming? Will we have students interested in coming to either a summer or fall makeup programming activity? Will our internship and clinical sites be open during that time and will they be willing to take students on for between 40 and 200 hours depending on the program (for) clinical experiences?”
Beyond certifications, other challenges face career and technical education districts.
According to Glover, in a meeting with the Arizona Board of Education, district superintendents discussed educational opportunities currently being provided to students. The board also adopted an emergency ruling barring school districts and charter schools from withholding academic credit or a diploma exclusively due to missed instructional time caused by COVID-19.
Amidst the mandated school closures, CAVIT has implemented an online learning plan for students.
The plan employs the use of Google Classroom, which students can access through their computer or phone to complete daily tasks assigned to them by their teacher. CAVIT launched its online learning initiative on Monday.
“Each day between now through the rest of the school year we will be providing online learning for the students relative to content,” Glover said.
For students that do not have access to technology at home, the district is also providing packets they can work on. CAVIT has also identified a method for packets to be returned to teachers for review.
Glover acknowledged, however, that the district is seeking guidance from the state board on a grading policy that would allow students to make up missed work or retake exams.
“This is important because it would allow teachers at the end of the school year to update the grades, but only to improve them and not to lower them,” he said. “If we had students that were perhaps not passing before the school closures, this would allow those students to make up work (or) to complete extra work so that way they can be successful by the end of the school year.”
Amidst heightened social distancing practices to curb the spread of COVID-19, the future of the annual ceremony held for second-year students that have completed their CAVIT program is also uncertain, Glover noted.
“The state Board of Education challenged schools to look for an innovative way to celebrate graduation if gatherings cannot be held during that time,” he said.
Each year, CAVIT holds its completion ceremony in May. For the 2019-20 school year, the ceremony was scheduled for May 12 at the Central Arizona College Signal Peak Campus. Because of school closures, however, CAC informed the district that all reservations of campus facilities have been canceled through June 30.
With no ability to predict when the situation with COVID-19 will come under control, the school is considering celebrating students that complete the program by creating a video that could be shared via social media if large gatherings are still barred come the end of the school year.
“In this unprecedented time that we are in, as well as the situation with school closure, we’re going to have to make some hard decisions,” Glover said. “I think none of us have a crystal ball to see what will be happening this summer.”